This morning I arrived in Argentina at the EZE airport along with eight other students in my program that I luckily ran into during my layover at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport (DFW is like an amusement park; with enough Starbucks stands to caffeinate the entire US and a Disney World-esque above ground shuttle). The other students came from all over the nation, some from my own University, a girl from California, a boy named Clark from Mississippi– who won instant brownie points for being from my paternal side’s home state and who not only knew that “Yazoo County” was in fact a thing but its exact location. Meeting these students made navigating EZE that much more bearable and entertaining. We all struggle-bused together as we answered Custom’s questions, took mug shots, and located our luggage.
I left the Airport and headed to the Retiro Neighborhood to see my new crib and meet my host mom/housemate. Based on what I’ve seen so far, Buenos Aires is one of the most enchanting and fascinating places on the planet. The Retiro neighborhood in particular has what makes all great cities great: juxtaposition. Posh apartments and tiendas are broken up by low-key bars and cafes. Meanwhile down the street there are several enormous parks and plazas packed with artsy youth, families,joggers, massive magnolia trees, and lots of dogs. Today at La Plaza Alvear these same artsy youth packed the outdoor fair that is held there every weekend; fruit stands and jewelry kiosks were everywhere. Tango music from an undetermined source played in the background. There was also an adult puppet show in the center green in which a puppet with dreadlocks was the main star.
I got distracted. My host mom: Beatriz Griffi. Beatriz (who insists we call her Bea) is a 66 year-old retired cook who has more swag packed into a tiny little body than I have ever seen. She greets me in front of our apartment on La Avenida Libertador with a big smile and a besito (kiss, yeah everyone kisses one another here). She repeatedly tells me that her home is now my home and that she wants this to be an incredible experience. She takes me into our doorman guarded apartment (yeah I have a doorman). My apartment is so dope it should be a sin. My room looks like it came out of a European magazine and is painted in a light blue with white trim and huge door-windows (which I’ve renamed Princess windows) that look out onto the street and a neighboring park. Also I don’t have to make my bed or clean my bathroom because we have a maid Marcela. Wait What?! I, Taylor Clayborne, have a doorman and a maid?! Unreal.Out of respect I will do my best to keep after myself, but its crazy thats its an option.
Beatriz took my housemate and me on a walking tour of the neighborhood; telling us the hot spots, safety tips, fun things for young ladies such as ourselves to do, while simultaneously winning us over with stories of her two grandsons. But we’re older than her grandchildren, and she wants us to know that we have “libertad” or freedom. As long as we are safe and let her know if we plan to miss dinner, she’s good. Speaking of dinner, she makes homemade pasta. And her son is a pastry chef who uses her kitchen as a cooking-lesson studio . I hit the Argentinian jackpot.
My housemate Adrian Glass is from New Jersey, so she shares my enthusiasm for this 80 degree weather. After our walking tour with Beatriz and a much needed nap, we hit the town for dinner (which is usually eaten from 9-11 here). We ate at a local Italian Cafe-ish place and split a Margarita Pizza. (Little known fact Argentina has incredible Italian food because of all the Italian immigration over the past century). We struggled together as we attempted to order. We struggled as we tried to remember the Spanish word for “box” when we realized we needed a doggie bag. I was fairly certain it was a “cajero”. Adrian said that sounded close-ish. So we went for it. We kindly asked the lady at the counter for the check and a “cajero” to put our pizza in. She looked slightly confused. A local who also spoke English saw our struggle and helped us determine that the word for box in Spanish was “caja”. With the help of Bea’s Wifi I just learned we asked for the check and an ATM to put our leftover pizza in. Housemates that struggle together stay together.